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Board Books: Our Family’s Favorites and Why We Love Them

It’s been scientifically proven that reading to babies at early ages encourages cognitive and language development. It is never too soon to start reading to your babies. I’ll admit, when I was pregnant with my first child, there were times I wanted to talk to him, but I really had nothing to say. He would often move around when he heard my voice. So, in these instances, I’d often pull out a book from my own children’s book library (that I used in my profession) and read aloud instead.

By the time my son had arrived, I’d been given many, many board books to read to him.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘board book,’ it refers to the books with cardboard pages. These are usually pretty short, sweet books, but there are some with more words than others.

Once we settled in at home with our newborn son, we started reading short board books to him as part of his bedtime routine.

Since then, our collection has grown. Our son received more board books as presents during his younger years. After the birth of our daughter, yet more board books flooded into our home.

Even though our children are now 6 and 3 years-old, we continue to read to them from our collection of board books.

At first glance, it may seem that these books are just for babies and younger toddlers. This is not the case. My son is now in kindergarten and learning to read. Reading board books has been excellent practice for him; the sentences tend to be shorter and the words and concepts are easy to figure out. My daughter isn’t ready to read yet but she can retell most of them and has even memorized a couple, which is a great pre-literacy skill.

Recently, someone asked me if I had a favorite board book. I can’t say that I do. There are just too many good ones! So, I figured I’d just make a list of our family’s favorite board books, series of board books, and/or board book authors to share with everyone!

1) Author: Olivier Dunrea  

Olivier Dunrea writes a whole series of children’s books about silly little goslings. There’s Gossie, Gossie & Gertie, Ollie, Ollie the Stomper, Peedie, Boo Boo, Gideon, Jasper & Joop, Gideon & Otto, Gemma & Gus, and a few other stories about these characters. The books come in board book form and hardcover. They are adorable little short stories.

For example, Peedie is a story about a gosling who usually forgets everything, except to wear his red hat. In the story, Peedie misplaces his hat and has to look all over to find it. The story is simple and easy to follow. The print is a comfortable size, and there are only one or two sentences per page. My three year old loves these stories. My son, on the other hand, uses them as reading practice. I can say without a doubt, that I have not been to the library once in the last six years without coming home with a hardcover copy of one of the gosling books. That speaks volumes.

2) Author: Sandra Boynton

Are You A Cow?, Moo, Baa, La La La, Night-Night Little Pooky, Barnyard Dance, and Hippos Go Berserk are in our board book library. However, there several more of her books available. Boynton’s stories are just the right combination of silly and simple, with animals for characters. All of her stories have a catchy rhythm and I have memorized quite a few of them myself.

Sandra Boynton Board Books

3) Eric Hill’s ‘Spot’ Collection

In our home, we frequently read: Where’s Spot?, Who’s there, Spot?, Spot Loves Sports, and Spot Says Please. We also have Spot’s First Christmas, which was my husband’s book when he was little. The characters are lovable and make my children laugh. Most of these books are very short, but there are a couple out there that are a little wordier.

4) Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis

The book is about the journeys a little boy takes his toy train on during the day. I love the cadence of the story and it’s adorable pictures. It is a must-have for any little train lover.

5) Llama Llama Hoppity Hop by Anna Dewdney

Another book with great rhythm by Vermont author, Anna Dewdney, it is basically a poem about a llama bouncing its way to its mother. This book is fun because, once your toddler is old enough to understand simple directions, they can act out the book with you. With text like, ‘Llama llama HOP!,” this book is never simply reading for us; my daughter always wants to act it out.

 6) Sesame Beginnings Books: Nighty-Night, Bubbles, Bubbles, At the Zoo, Eyes & Nose Fingers & Toes

Featuring Elmo and his ever-popular Sesame Street friends, these books are super short. They too have a rhythm to them and the successive lines rhyme. The Speech-Language Pathologist in me loves the simple vocabulary they help build (bedtime items, body parts, and animals). My daughter went through a period of time where she wanted me to read at least one of the four books every day. You cannot go wrong with these books when you have a toddler.

7) Run, Run Piglet by Betty Ann Schwartz and Lynn Seresin

Pigs are my daughter’s favorite animal (maybe because they are pink?) So I just knew she was going to love this book before we even opened it. It’s about a pig who is lost on his farm and is looking for the mud so he can find his mother. He goes all over the farm asking each animal where the ‘mud’ he’s looking for is. This book helps expose babies to animal vocabulary but is also amusing. There is a little pig attached to the binding of the book via a ribbon that moves from page to page through pre-cut holes in the middle of the book. The interactive nature of the book definitely makes it appealing for babies and toddlers.

8) Clifford’s Bedtime by Norman Bridwell

As you can probably deduce, the book takes you through baby Clifford’s bedtime routine. Really, anything with that lovable red dog is a win in our house.

9) Usborne’s Baby’s Very First Slide and See Animals

 This book isn’t really a story. It is mostly onomatopoeic; most of the words throughout the book are animal sounds. In general, some of the first ‘words’ we teach our kids are farm animal sounds, but this book goes a different direction. It targets sounds made by snakes, hummingbirds, gorillas, and lemurs, to name a few. As the name of the book suggests, you interact with the board book by sliding different tabs and flaps around to make animals do things like catch flies. The pictures are vibrant too.

This Usborne book is one of our favorite board books.

10) Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

This a story in rhyme form that I have learned by heart over the years. Kids love it because it’s a silly, very short story about a bunch of sheep that are driving a jeep and get it stuck in the mud. Other animals help the sheep and they manage to free the jeep again. But the sheep are so excited after they are on the road again that disaster strikes. The story always made my kids giggle. It’s a crowd pleaser for sure. Nancy Shaw has also written other stories about these sheep, but my kids have not gravitated towards them as much as they have this story.

11) Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

This book is definitely a bit lengthier than the others I have mentioned up to this point. I should mention that, after reading it 1,654,902 times, I know it by heart. It’s a sweet rhyming poem that focuses on a day on a farm. I find it to be very endearing. I may like this book more than my kids do.

12) Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton

Red Truck is a tow truck that helps vehicles when they get stuck due to snow or flooding. In this story, Red Truck pulls a bus out of a muddy, flooded mess on a hill with snow still on the ground in the pouring rain. (Probably in the middle of April in Vermont. Just kidding). I love not only the simplicity of the story but the pictures.

Reading Red Truck: one of our favorite board books.

13) Red Wagon by Renata Liwska

Maybe I just like books with ‘Red’ in the title. Seriously, though, I cannot get enough of this book. The story is about Lucy the fox who has a red wagon she wants to play with.

When she asks her mother if she can play with the wagon, her mother sends her off to the market to buy groceries with it instead. Not sold on making the trip to the market, Lucy does her chore anyway, and imagines she’s on several different adventures while traveling to and from the market. Her animal friends join her. On their journey, they pretend the wagon is a ship, a covered wagon, a train, and a rocket ship, among a couple other things. What is really cool, though, is that it doesn’t always come right out and explain what Lucy and her friends are pretending. You have to deduce this information from the illustrations. Speaking of illustrations, the ones in this book are excellent! Basically, I love that this book really addresses the limitless imaginations of children.

Bonus *board book* #14:

Ok, so it isn’t a board book exactly. But I’m thinking the creators did that because they wanted something extremely durable and easy to mail.

I’m talking about Highlights’ ‘Hello Magazine’. This little version of the Highlights magazine is specifically published for ages 0-2. It is made out of extremely durable material. My daughter couldn’t damage it, never ripped it or bit off a piece and that is saying a lot.

Highlights Hello is as popular in our family as our favorite board books.

Each issue contains a couple of very short stories, a poem, an extremely simple ‘look and find’ page, and a song (they give you the words and tell you what common tune it should be sung to). We received this little magazine monthly and my daughter absolutely loved it. We’ve saved them because she still digs them out and wants us to read them from time to time. They are wonderful little issues with a lot of language that encourages early cognitive skill development. Plus, once my daughter was old enough to understand she was getting mail, this absolutely thrilled her.

While you might be familiar with many of these, I hope these suggestions have given you some more ideas of books you can look for for your children. I also hope you consider keeping your board books for a while even after you think your kids have grown out of them, so you can use them for your beginning readers to practice with.

Do you have any favorite board books that aren’t on our list? Feel free to share, I’d love to explore some new ones!  

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